About ten years ago, I read a novel called What the Body Remembers by Indo-Canadian author Shauna Singh Baldwin. It was a cracking good story, set in the dying days of the Raj, about the splintering of a family — an allegory of India’s independence and subsequent partition.
But this is not a blog post about the book or its author, or even about India’s long and storied history; this is just a shameless rip-off of that wonderful title. Although Singh Baldwin was referring to the power of collective memory and the subconscious mind when she wrote it, my take is more literal: I’m thinking about the ways we expats adapt to our physical surroundings, and how we re-adapt once we move on.
Actually, I’m just moaning about the weather. It’s been sizzling these past few weeks, and the high humidity and lack of rain are only making things worse. Today the forecast at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport is 38 degrees. I was a bit shocked to realize that’s hotter than it is in Singapore at the moment.
Yesterday I braved the heat to run a few errands, and after five measly minutes outside, my shirt was damp and my hair was plastered to the back of my neck. Acutely uncomfortable, I had a sudden flashback to my Singaporean look-see visit. Stepping out of the air-conditioned airport was like walking into a steam bath; it felt as though I’d been smacked in the face with a wet, heavy blanket.
It took me months to acclimatize to my sticky surroundings. The day my friend Kate and I realized we were sitting on the patio at Starbucks instead of automatically making a beeline for the chilled air inside, we gave each other goofy grins and felt like we belonged.
I remember it well. My body, however, does not. The heat is sapping me of energy and turning me into an aircon junkie. I’m frankly disappointed by my lack of fortitude — I lived in Southeast Asia for three years, and now an itsy-bitsy heat wave has me seriously concerned I might actually be melting.
How well did you adapt to your host country’s climate? What happened when you moved on?